IT’S hard to remember a time when disability was in the headlines as often as it is these days.
Even better, it’s featuring in a good news story of bipartisan support for a social reform that will dramatically and positively change the lives of over 400,000 Australians.
Since Tuesday night’s budget announcement, people with disability have talked about DisabilityCare with hope, relief and reassurance.
Craig Wallace, president of People with Disability Australia said, ‘‘It’s feeling a bit like Christmas, but with balance sheets full of numbers instead of tinsel and turkey.’’
We know budgets never please everyone and this one is no exception.
This week, however, we celebrate what secure, sustainable funding will mean for people with disability and their families.
In less than two months, DisabilityCare will become a reality, which Hunter residents with disability and their families will be among the first to experience.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s emotional speech yesterday as she introduced DisabilityCare legislation made news headlines and saturated social media within minutes.
Clearly, Ms Gillard has heard first-hand the stories of individuals and families for whom DisabilityCare is much more than a political issue.
For the people with disability and families whom she has met, as well as for thousands of Hunter residents, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will change lives in ways we have not yet begun to imagine.
Perhaps her tears tell us that she has moved from seeing DisabilityCare as a welfare issue to a matter of social justice.
She knows people with disability will finally access necessary equipment and support for a life comparable with their non-disabled peers.
They will finally be able to make choices in all aspects of their lives and find ways to meet their support needs in new and innovative ways beyond traditional disability services.
People with disability will receive the assistance they need to have as much control as they choose over their funding and supports.
The NDIS will give people with disability unprecedented choice and control over such basic, but crucial, issues as who supports them to get up in the morning and at what time. They will choose the people who will support them with dignity, respect and flexibility to carry out some of their most personal human needs.
People with disability will be able to access the necessary technology and support to find and keep a job.
Children will get timely early intervention, no longer waiting months or years.
People with disability and families will have the opportunity to determine their goals and aspirations and shape the support they require to meet them.
At the Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH), we know that hope is a great starting point when thinking about the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
At the same time, change is always confrontational and some would say there is little evidence that the new approach will live up to its promises.
CDAH believes that there is a need for independent organisations, like ours, which are run by and for the very people we work for.
We want to make sure that people with disability and their families are offered as broad as possible a range of choices for their care and support.
We want to support each other as we learn to move from a sense of gratitude for the little support we receive to a sense of ourselves as entitled citizens creating market demand.
We want to ensure that people with disability have independent support before, during and after their DisabilityCare assessments.
If we want to ensure that the rhetoric of DisabilityCare becomes a reality, we have a long journey ahead.
We will need to learn how to think differently, let go of old assumptions and practices, and dare to imagine the life we want for ourselves and those we love with disability.
The budget announcement heralds a whole new way of thinking about the needs and entitlements of Australians with disability.
Finally, we are addressing the reality that thousands of Australians are poorly educated and living on or below the poverty line.
Finally, we are moving beyond a system of support that is inequitable, broke and broken.
Finally, funding is secured to ensure we are no longer denied our right to experience the freedom, choice, opportunities and control in moving from a system of rationed, inflexible, unsustainable and grossly inadequate support to a personalised, whole-of-community approach.
Linda Hughes and Catherine Mahony, on behalf of Community Disability Alliance Hunter, formerly known as the Hunter Disability Support Organisation.